Sunday, June 22, 2014

A big day out

We live in the Blue Mountains, NSW.  Each winter solstice there is a community event called Blue Mountains Winter Magic Festival. It's a huge day for our community. This year they estimate there were 40,000 visitors to the festival, which is held in the small town of Katoomba. You can get an idea of how full on it is by looking at this news story, and checking out the pictures on the Winter Magic Facebook page.

MasterL chooses not to go each year. He just doesn't get enough enjoyment from this sort of thing to make the crowds worth while dealing with. 

MissG always wants to go. She loves the music, especially the drums, and she loves seeing all the wonderful costumes and  amazing puppets, props, displays and performances. Even though she loves it, it is a massive challenge for her- the sensory input is extraordinary and takes a toll on her very quickly. When she was younger we could help her cope by letting her ride on our backs in the Macpac carrier. She is too big for that now, so other strategies are necessary. This year MissK was playing cornet in the City Band as part of the Parade, so we were committed to being there at least until she was finished, and we had to be there in time for her to meet up with the band well before the parade started. 

MissG wanted to dress up this year, as many people do. The theme was Phoenix Dreaming (a recognition of the strength of our Mountains community in the aftermath of the devastating fires that claimed over 200 homes last summer), so she wanted to be a phoenix. We made some additions to a red coat, and she was ready!!  

Image is of MissG in her phoenix costume:
a red jacket with hood that has eyes attached,
her face obscured by a yellow cap sticking out
from under the hood as her beak, and orange and
yellow fabric feathers draped over her shoulders.
She is holding her arms up at shoulder
height in the middle of a bit of a flap.

We had to drop MissK off at 10.30, so we took some time to walk around and see the stalls set up before hand. We did a little shopping, visited the stall of a lovely friend (who so insightfully offered the space under one of her tables as a sensory refuge for MissG if needed- thanks Jeni, you are a star!!) and slowly made our way to the drop off point while things were still relatively quiet. We dropped MissK off, and heading back to the main festival area to pass the time until the parade started.  

Image is of MissK wearing pink framed glasses,
a furry black bucket hat and black jacket,
holding her cornet in from of her
and smiling at the camera. 

 By now it was getting very busy, and very congested. So we decided to get out of the crowds for a while, and go do some chew therapy! One thing that helps MissG calm when things are stressful is chewing and sucking. We went and got a drink and and a chewy snack and found a quiet place to sit and eat. 

After 20 mins of quiet and chewing, MissG wanted to go and look at some more stalls, so we headed back into the crowd, but after only a few minutes it was enough, and she was really struggling. Because of the crowds it was hard to get to a quiet place quickly and poor MissG started to meltdown in the middle of a group of people. Just then a lady who was giving out balloons appeared, and MissG latched onto that as what she wanted to do to help calm herself. We grabbed a balloon and continued to head for a quiet spot (it really helps to be very familiar with the town in these sort of situations, I knew exactly where we could go to give her a break- if we had been somewhere unfamiliar this would have been much harder). 

In our quiet spot MissG busied herself with making the best balloon shadows she could, experimenting with the angle and height to get the best amount of colour showing through in the ballon shadow. She especially liked this shadow, and asked me to take a photo of it. 

Image is of the shadow of MissG holding her
balloon in front of her and looking up at it. 

After a while we decided to go back and see if the parade was starting soon. We found a not crowded space between two stalls next to a lovely lady with a cute puppy, who offered for MissG to move in front of her so she could see easily and not be squished, and we settled in just in time to see MissK go past. 

Image is of a group of people dressed in black playing
brass instruments while marching in a parade.
The back of MissK can be seen in her furry bucket hat.
There are music sheets on lyres and parts of
trumpets and cornets visible everywhere.

And as soon as she saw her sister go past, she was done. She needed to go, and that was that. We excused ourselves past the people behind us, and headed for the place we organised to meet MissK. Fortunately there was a good wall for shadow making while we waited. 

Image is of MissG in her phoenix outfit, facing a brick wall holding her red ballon.
There is another ballon above her head being held by a person out of the photo.
There is a shadow of MissG and her balloon on the wall, and the shadow of the other balloon next to her on her right. 

I was so proud of both my girls today. MissK for trying something new- it was a huge effort for her, after only learning cornet for a short while, to join in the parade. She did so well. And MissG for knowing her limits and letting me know what she needed to do to manage her stress and overwhelm. We left home at 9.30. We arrived back home at about 1.00.  Three and a half hours of pretty much too much everything. Even though it was hard, even though she did have an overload induced meltdown, her impression of the day was "It was good". And the best bit? "It was when we got the dolly". 

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